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Xbox Live Hits Collection: Trials HD / Limbo / Splosion Man
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Three of the best of last years xbox Live experience. For those unfamiliar with the service the content on xbox live is usually simpler, lower budget and purer games for lower prices, however, as these games all prove, lower price does not mean lower in fun or punch.
Trials HD is by far one of the best peices on the disc, usually available for 1200 MSP (about nine GBP) on the network, this 2.5D physics biking and time trial game is an absolute pleasure to play, focusing on honing skills and giving some great long term challenges, the difficulty curve making the experience a lot more troubling towards the end but the persuit of honing ones skills is a truly rewarding experience for those wishing to see it through.
Splosion Man is an innovative puzzle platformer usually available for between 800-1200msp depending on where and when you buy it. With the sequel now available it will most likely drop in price on the service but it's still a bargain here.A typically trying too hard zany platformer with an equally wacky cast of characters might put some off, however at it's core this game is a true skill challenge with 50 multiplayer and 50 singleplayer maps, leaderboard connectivity and a unique approach. At it's core I'd say Donkey Kong Country meets Portal meets an unfunny uncle who smells a little odd and still laughs at the chuckle brothers, but it's well worth a go.
And Limbo, only played the demo, seemed okay, have heard good things, reminded me of braid.
If you can get the service, have a go at the demo's and see if this is worth it over the 2100 mspoints available for the same price.
If you'r an Xbox Live Arcade Newbie who's had concerns about making that first purchase then this is a very safe introduction to the service and style of games on offer, the three games on here all considered fairly essential.
And if your living under the sea and can't get xbox live connectivity, then this is definitely a safe bet for a few weekends worth of entertaining distractions at a great price.
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Now this game is available for the price of a good DVD, there has never been a better time to play. The story is fairly standard fare but the stylised graphics make good use of the technology and the feel of the game is very appropriate.
At it's core, this is essentially a time trial game, getting a player from A-B in the quickest time possible with at times multiple paths to your destination. Once the immediate gratification of the story has been moved aside there may seem like very little to do, with only a few time trial maps and a tiny bit of downloadable content to enjoy. However this is really where the game becomes a more addictive experience and it's link to more pure, old school racing games really shows through.
Essentially the highest points on the leader board will always be dominated by those players who have put in a solid few hundred hours dropping the odd split second or two from their speed runs and exploring the game to that level of depth wont be for everyone. But at this price, it's hard to say no to what, to the casual gamer will definitely be a good 4 hour run through a very well realised futuristic cityscape, and to the more hardcore score grinder, a much more addictive experience in a thoroughly beautiful playground in which to perfect your performance and runs using some very, very gratifying acrobatics.
For the casual gamer, buy, enjoy a few runs and trade in, for the hardcore leader board purists....you've already got it anyway, right?
Tales Of Vesperia
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Tales Games always have a small print run due to their niche following in the UK and US and the variance in the markets they hit, this usually means that, unless people are willing to pay very high prices, after the initial retail period has passed, they are very hard for new players to get into. The game itself is now available on Xbox Live Games on demand for a much lower price, and if you don't know what this game is and why it's so expensive, I'd probably recommend buying it from there.
Tales is a series of slow burning and very much traditional action RPG's that Namco have been producing for a number of years. Rather than going for high impact graphical flourishes and particle effects, they concentrate on long, interwoven stories spanning 40-70 hours of play with a traditional path through the narrative, closer to games like the secret of mana for the super nintendo, rather than a more exploratory, free roam approach like Zelda or Fable.
Shying away from some more modern conventions and fashions in the medium has allowed Tales series to become a unique experience in it's own right, the length of the games and their focus on character development seems to be much closer to that of a long running Anime series than that of a 20 hour blockbuster RPG, it works well for fans of character development, and Tales of Vesparia is a particularly good example and a great starting point for fans of long running Mangas and Anime's looking for a new way to experience that type of story, there are a few purchases available on xbox live to make the experience easier and remove some of the grinding elements to the game for those players who don't have the time to invest in the odd hour of grinding when your character needs it.
The characters, although appearing archetypal at first expand to show some true depth and complex reasoning for their behaviours, the story allows for a slow steady expanding of the world, and, although 20 hours in starts to become quite dense the effect all these different elements and guilds has on the characters should be enough to keep you interested.
For fans of the series who haven't played this yet, in comparison to symphonia it is just as good, if not better for all the right reasons, and has another 70 hours of gameplay for those rainy days of revelations and discovery.
If your a fan of the series, you will probably already have this game, and you'll already know whether you want the disc version or not, if your a newcomer to the series who likes the sound of it, go for the xbox live version. If you have the choice between the Xbox and the PS3 version, go for PS3, with extra characters and other additions, it's the delux box set.
Assassin's Creed 2: Game Of The Year Edition
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Having Played all three assassins creed Games, including the more recent brotherhood. I will say that this is the best title in the series by far. The pacing and balance, the character arcs, the execution and production values make this an utterly compelling game from start to eventual finish, and the stylistic differences in the cities and different elements of the game give a real feeling of an epic journey with decades spanned and miles covered.
The improvements over the original are vast, the game casting off the scavenger hunt style of the first and evolving into a much more organic, sandbox variant. I would recommend this be the starting point for anyone completely new to the series, with brotherhood as the second choice and the original only for hardcore fans.
Brotherhood stands in the shadow of the foundations set and perfected here only as a curious addendum. The multi-player may make it look like a more attractive offer to the casual gamer, but to be honest, for pure hours of entertainment per pound, this is the original Mona Lisa, why pay more for a reprint?